Oct 27, 2017
Autumn 2017 seems to be as good a time as any to remind you: there’s a difference between mentoring and sponsoring women and their work. This is for men and for senior women too: You can talk all day about women you respect, admire, even that you think are brilliant at what they do. But it’s another step altogether to say: You should lead, you should run this initiative, you’re the visionary who’s the most capable. Step up if you want; I’ll recommend you. You’re the one most qualified. It’s your voice that’s needed. Full stop.
I’ve had men acquiesce to my taking a nominal lead position only by making about it their own magnanimity. They “don’t have to be the man out in front,” they say. This is not sponsoring. This is effectively saying: I’m letting you have it. Sponsoring is seeing women’s talent and vouching for it without the subtle caveats and qualifiers. It’s helping others to see their talent, and it’s spending your social and political capital because you know people will listen to your recommendation.